How can our busy lifestyles and unchecked stress impact weight? You may be thinking “I’m active, I exercise, and I am always moving with the full life I’ve chosen to lead, what’s so wrong with that?”
Maybe you need to focus on your stress before you take on another exercise program.
Simply put: stress directly causes weight gain and impacts our entire body. It leads to sleep challenges and makes us more prone to injury. Stress also results in illnesses from minor to devastating, from experiencing migraines to feelings of depression and anxiety.
However, our nervous system is truly anything but simple when it comes to stress.
Our bodies were made with a mechanism to protect us from stress. Many years ago, we used to forage for food and defend ourselves against enemies. Our bodies, from a primal perspective, were made to help us sense danger and to protect us from it.
When our body senses danger, it excretes a hormone called cortisol to protect us. Cortisol has many functions, yet with regard to stress, it is excreted when our brain senses danger.
Today, this same mechanism is triggered to protect us from chronic worry, frustration, and anxiety. The same mechanism is triggered when we fall, when we are being chased, and when we face physical harm.
Excess cortisol tends to make women feel “wired but tired,” anxious, and irritable. It also makes us crave sugar and carbs, and gain weight around our midsection.
So, how does this weight gain happen?
Our bodies were not made for our “always-on” lifestyles. Chronic stress, or the “race from the bed through the day,” (either literally or within our constantly churning minds) is the problem.
In my MASTER Menopause NOW! online program, I teach how all of this works. I also teach how incremental habit change can literally “free” you up to feel amazing in our concierge small group program.
The more you stress, the more you will accumulate excess abdominal fat. One well-known theory is that our body believes it is in real danger due to chronic stress. So, it packs on fat to protect us. A Yale University study recently found that women with greater abdominal fat had more negative moods and higher levels of life stress.
Get your stress in check. Your belly will be happy!
In order to protect the body from the stress, cortisol shuts down our immune system delivering energy where it is needed most – combating stress. It also stops bone and muscle growth, disrupts our sleep cycle, increases our blood pressure, reduces blood flow, works as an antidiuretic, adds weight around the waistline, and disrupts the reproductive system. Many other normal body functions are also put at risk. Increased cortisol also leaves blood sugar levels higher. Because of this, the body gets tired of chronically producing insulin, and it is possible to become insulin-resistant and ultimately diabetic.
Repeat after me: We can’t achieve the wellness we want without getting our stress in check.
Stress management is free, it’s simple, and it can be the key to our long-term health and “new normal” sanity. Some of my favorite strategies to reduce stress are deliberate breathing, going for a walk outside, and maintaining a consistent sleep routine.
I coach our members to fix their stress before adding more cardio and cutting more calories. The reason their wellness is sabotaged is because of their chronic and unaddressed stress, which can lead to lifestyle choices like:
- lack of energy,
- poor sleep,
- lack of motivation to exercise,
and simply making choices we wouldn’t if we didn’t experience this high level of stress.
There is ample research that shows us that our lifestyle choices are the source of our health and wellness woes. This is challenging, because we can’t see the effects since they are taking place under our skin. It’s also easier to fall prey to the media’s message of “more cardio and fewer calories is the answer.”
If you want to build up your wellness – and feel amazing through menopause and beyond – I finally have an accessible and affordable online option. You can purchase my MASTER Menopause NOW! 5-Module Course here. There is so much to learn on your path to wellness, and every module is an essential tool and building block to feel better and to master menopause and midlife. We are also offering a concierge small group where women are shifting their stress mindsets and habits. It truly is transforming the way they lead their lives. Email me if you’re interested.